Q&A with Seth Taylor from Seth Taylor: Coffee by Design
Seth Taylor: Coffee by Design is a one-person operation, and the owner, Seth Taylor, is roasting up some seriously incredible coffees. We chatted with Taylor to learn more about his roasting philosophy and what has inspired him.
How did you first get into coffee?
I lived in Victoria, BC, and my wife worked at a cafe. The cafe had a new owner, and they started experimenting with roasting. They needed help after hours just bagging coffee, so I went in the evenings to help out, and then the next thing I knew, they started a full-on coffee company: Fernwood Coffee. I was the first and only employee for the first year they were open, and I just fell in love with coffee. After that, we moved to England briefly, and I integrated into the coffee community there. I judged competitions, got to know different coffees and roasters, and learned a lot.
How does the specialty coffee scene in England differ from that in Canada?
The calibre of coffee is much higher in England. They’re a little more detail-oriented, and they’ve moved on to trends quickly, while Canada takes longer to adopt them. When I was in London—this would have been about ten years ago—every bar had scales and was weighing shots. You would not have seen that in Canada yet. It was a bit more elevated. I think sometimes it’s harder to find good coffee in Canada.
Did this experience inform your approach to roasting?
Definitely! They were on to lighter roasting a little sooner than Canada, too, and I would say in Canada, we’re still not really into light roasts. The market in Canada is more focused on medium, darker roasts.
How would you define your roasting philosophy?
For me, the beans are really the key. I want to impact them in the most positive way possible, with as little negative impact as possible. I think that as a roaster, it’s very easy to modify the kind of flavour profile of the coffee within the confines of the bean itself. For me, the trick to roasting is to do that as little as possible. I want to try to let the flavours inherent within the bean come forward. So, I do as light of a roast as possible without tasting underdeveloped.
What are you excited about in specialty coffee right now?
I’m really excited about all the interest in extremely high-end quality coffee. I feel like coffee quality has just been getting exponentially better in the last five years. That is partially why I don’t do any blends or anything like that.